Short Rounds is a biweekly column dedicated to spreading the love of short film. Every other Wednesday we'll curate a number of flicks around a theme, from current film festivals to whatever is in the air.
The best zombie movies these days are not actually zombie movies. They have zombies in them, often lumbering around postapocalyptic landscapes and eating brains. Yet the struggle against the flesh-eating monsters is rarely the point of these films anymore, at least not the good ones. Nothing is more boring than a rehash of George Romero that doesn’t do justice to the original, and adds little to the trapped-in-X-location framework. Instead, tossing the zombies into another genre has worked wonders in the last few years, well beyond the rambunctious comedy of Shaun of the Dead. This weekend we have a zombie romance on our hands with Warm Bodies.
I’ve always thought of the zombie as a uniquely New World monster, the American addition to a pantheon of terrors brought over from Europe. They play on an old-fashioned fear of the “other” en masse that fed McCarthyism and a whole bunch of other unsavory chapters of our history. So I was surprised when at the end of the day, three of my five favorites were from Australia, and another was from New Zealand. If anyone wants to write a dissertation on why they make such great zombie flicks Down Under, send me a copy.
Zombie Movie, by Michael J. Asquith and Ben Stenbeck
Three metal heads in a car, trying to outlast a zombie apocalypse. They’re out of gas, surrounded by the horde, and running out of patience. Worst of all, they can’t waste the battery to blast some Black Sabbath to pass the time. It’s cleverly shot entirely from within the car, using mostly muck and a well-edited soundtrack of grunts and shotgun blasts to simulate the scope of the disaster. It begins with such dark humor that by the time it veers right into the grossest possible conclusion, we keep laughing.
Watch Zombie Movie on Vimeo
Home, by Cameron McCulloch
While Zombie Movie spices up the genre with slow-witted banter, Home strips the campy fun away entirely. This wordless emotional work follows a woman on her own in the world, holding out against the zombies in her house in the country. She stoically goes about her day, looking for food and defending her property. Yet behind the façade is a personal tragedy, a unique perspective on love and loss that leads to a heart-wrenching conclusion.
Gun Barista, by James Phillips
On the one hand, Gun Barista is a wry commentary on how dependent we have become on our fancy, complicated, overpriced espresso-based beverages. On the other, it’s a quirky and effective comic take on the zombie genre that holds on to a real sense of fun. The setup: two adorable baristas are trapped in their café, facing a crowd of their newly undead regulars battering down the door. What do they do? Sometimes appealing to the basest of human instincts is the best solution, and they start dishing out the caffeine.
Spoiler, by Daniel Thron
So, say there’s a massive zombie outbreak but in the end living, healthy humanity wins. What’s the response to any future infections? Spoiler is the story of a coroner in Los Angeles, whose job is now not only to certify deaths but to make sure the unfortunate souls are genuinely deceased. A genre of survival at the point of a gun becomes a high-stakes police game, as this futuristic society adjusts to the fear of outbreak. Yet, in the end, Spoiler holds on dearly to its characters and emphasizes the living more than the dead.
I Love Sarah Jane, by Spencer Susser
The prime example of “movies with zombies” as opposed to “zombie movies,” Spencer Susser’s short is one of my all-time favorites. The undead are the basis of the mood of the film without taking center stage, offering an opportunity for a unique take on adolescence. Mia Wasikowska is great, as usual, and will hopefully be returning for the feature version sometime soon.